After weathering tough times as a consequence of the well-publicised problems that beset General Motors, its parent company, Vauxhall aims to bounce back strongly in the UK light commercial market. One of its key weapons will be the new Movano, a rebadged version of Renault’s French-built Master.
GM and Renault have a long-establish collaborative agreement that resulted in the previous Movano as well as the current one. It also resulted in Renault’s Trafic being marketed by Vauxhall as the Vivaro; both Trafic and Vivaro are built in Luton.
The Master and Movano ranges pretty much mirror each other. In both cases we’re talking about new engines, the availability of both front- and rear-wheel drive — a choice that is already offered by Ford with the Transit — and a move to higher gross weights.
Adding a 4.5-tonner to a line-up that also encompasses 2.8-, 3.3-, 3.5- and 4.5-tonners means that Vauxhall and Renault dealers will have to get to grips with tachographs and the Drivers Hours rules. Both come into play above 3.5 tonnes.
They will have to be capable of advising customers about heavy-truck-style Operator’s Licences — something else that looms large above 3.5-tonnes — not to mention the requirement for 4.5-tonner drivers to either hold a driver’s Certificate of Professional Competence or attend courses that will lead to one.
Such complications could play to the strengths of Renault Trucks. The heavy truck maker is selling Master through its network in competition with the Renault car and van network — and in competition with Vauxhall of course — and is well versed in them. Nissan marketed the previous Master/Movano as the Interstar, but will not be selling its replacement.
Like its French-badged counterpart, Movano van is built with three heights — H1, H2 and H3 — three wheelbases and four lengths; L1, L2, L3 and L4. L1 and L2 are solely front-wheel drive (fwd) while L4, which has an extended rear overhang and was not offered on the previous model, is built only with rear-wheel drive (rwd). L3 is built with the choice of both. Go fwd and you can choose from a line-up of cargo cubes that extends from 8.0m3 to 14.8m3. Rwd models run from 12.4m3 to 17.0m3. Payload capacities extend from 994kg to 2,254kg and trailers with a gross weight of either 2.5 or 3.0 tonnes can be towed depending on the vehicle selected.
While Movano has a smaller engine than its predecessor, that’s not to say that it’s short on power or torque. Married to a six-speed gearbox, the 2.3-litre Euro 4 CDTi diesel is marketed at 100hp, 125hp or 146hp. Top torque peaks at 285Nm, 310Nm and 350N and you can upgrade the four-cylinder lump to Euro 5 exhaust emission standards by specifying a particulate trap. An automated manual transmission will be offered as an option on the 125hp and 146hp engines.
Disc brakes provide the stopping power front and back and all Movanos are kitted out with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Rwd versions additionally boast load-adaptive Electronic Stability Programme as standard with understeer control and it’s a shame that it’s not standard on fwd models too. MacPherson struts are at the heart of the front suspension while leaf springs are deployed at the rear.
Having sampled a number of left-hand drive fwd and rwd Masters, we decided to climb behind the wheel of a right-hand drive L2H2 fwd Movano 3.5-tonner with 100hp on tap.
With ample feedback through the steering, our Movano offered safe, dependable handling as we cruised along the roads of Bedfordshire and noise levels were well under control. It seemed well-put-together too, with no annoying squeaks, creaks or rattles.
Even on smooth, pot-hole-free surfaces — a rare sight in the UK — the ride was alas rather lumpy; a surprise given how impressive the ride of the fwd and rwd Masters we drove was. Climbing into the back, we realised that what made the difference was the way in which the test load had been distributed; evenly across the load area in the case of all the Masters we tackled, but right up against the standard full-height steel bulkhead and with a tendency to slide to the left and to the right in Movano’s.
Distribute the cargo evenly and we’re confident that Movano’s ride will be every bit as composed as Master’s. Model for model, there’s no difference in the suspension set-up between the two vehicles.
Movano’s gearchange wasn’t as smooth as what was on offer from Master however; maybe that’s in part the consequence of the engineering changes necessary to switch the vehicle from left- to right-hand drive.
We also feel that the 100bhp 2.3-litre doesn’t pack quite enough punch if you’re heavily laden — we had a big bag of sand weighing around a tonne in the back — and you’re proposing to tackle an all-day rural delivery run or do a lot of dashing up and down dual carriageways.
The 125hp engine should be well on top of such tasks, however, and would be our pick, with the 146hp offering more than sufficient horses for long-haul trips; and to be honest the 100hp lump would be perfectly adequate if all you’re doing short local runs.
The ability of these more powerful engines, and the competence of Movano’s handling, was proved to our satisfaction when we took them around the hill route at the hush-hush high-security Millbrook Proving Ground. They pulled strongly and employing them should result in a marked reduction in journey times.
No matter which engine you pick, there’s no denying that Movano’s roomy three-man cab — it’s slightly longer than the one fitted to the old model — is one of the best in the business. The amount of storage space it offers is staggering.
For your money you get a cavernous glovebox, shelves above the windscreen, large bins in each of the front doors and umpteen other nooks and crannies. Finding places for your box of sandwiches, your clipboard or your pens won’t be a problem.
A variety of in-cab options can be specified. One of them allows you to flip down the centre of the middle seat’s backrest and turn it into a handy desk for the completion of paperwork. Another is a pull-out and flip-down map holder positioned in the middle of the dashboard while yet another is a Carminat TomTom satellite navigation system incorporating a swivelling display positioned at the top of the windscreen.
Movano’s cargo area is sensibly laid out, with ten cargo tie-down points available on our test van; six on the floor, one forward of each wheel box and one on each side of the rear door aperture. The low loading height is of course one argument in favour of fwd.
A sliding nearside cargo door plus twin rear doors come as standard. Good to see big door handles that are easy to pull open if you’re wearing thick working gloves or if you’re wrestling with an armful of parcels at the same time.
Movano is a handsome-looking van — better-looking in our opinion than its predecessor — and it’s interesting to note in passing that its front grille sports the biggest griffin badge ever fitted to any Vauxhall vehicle.
Movano looks set to be inexpensive to operate. Vauxhall states that our L2H2 demonstrator can return a respectable 35.3mpg with CO2 emissions set at 211g/km.
Service intervals are set at 25,000 miles and the coolant only has to be drained once every 100,000 miles. The engine is fitted with a zero-maintenance timing chain and servicing and general wear and tear costs are said by Vauxhall to be up to 24 per cent lower than those of the outgoing model over four years and approximately 93,000 miles.
An Ecoflex model designed with low mpg and equally low CO2 emissions as top priorities and set to challenge Ford’s Transit ECOnetic will debut in the second half of the year.
The 100hp Movano we drove will set you back £22,310 — all prices quoted here exclude VAT — or £22,710 if you want to pay extra and go Euro 5. Aside from being sold as a straightforward van, Vauxhall’s all-new load lugger will also be sold as a crew van, a minibus, a platform cab, a chassis cab and a chassis double cab. Tippers, dropsides, and chassis with box van bodies will be available too.
It’s worth noting that Movano is getting a bit of a jump start in the marketplace with £1,400 worth of free options being offered with the vehicle between now and 31 July. What Vauxhall describes as the Launch Pack includes air-conditioning, a multi-function trip computer, an alarm and BlueTooth Connectivity. The only model that doesn’t qualify for this largesse is the £20,250 entry-level Expression.
Despite our not-entirely-satisfactory test drive, we’re still more than willing to give Vauxhall’s new Movano the thumbs-up. Its engines, its handling, its build quality and the sheer breadth of the range should give the competition some sleepless night; and customers a lot more choice.